Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Making the world safer, one driver at a time

When it comes to defensive driving, Terry Kearns says you’re never too old to learn some new tricks.

Kearns, an OOIDA member from Paducah, Ky., and his wife, Gail, run a mobile driver training simulator and classroom for the Paducah Area Transit System. According to the organization’s website, the mobile simulator offers supplementary education and training opportunities for a variety of vehicles, including law enforcement and commercial drivers.

The simulator is an entirely self-contained technology system in a 53-foot expandable mobile classroom. Three separate units can emulate many different types of vehicles, small or large. 

“It’s like a video game, to a point,” Kearns said. “I can set different scenarios up to happen at any point.”

Those scenarios include distracted driving incidents, adverse weather conditions, mechanical or tire failure, or even a child running out in front of the vehicle.

Before Terry puts participants through the simulator, Gail runs them through a classroom-style instructional program. The combination of curriculum and simulation allows for participants to get the chance to see what they’re doing wrong and make corrections.

“We can find out what your driving habits are, and where you’re having problems,” Kearns said. “Then we can work to correct the problems.”

While a lot of their target market is law enforcement groups or trucking associations, Kearns said the simulator is “for anyone.”

“We’re trying to open it up more to the general public,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt to go through a defensive driving course and kind of get your skills back around you. … It doesn’t hurt to get that little shakeup in there.”

The simulators and the curriculum were designed by FAAC Inc., which has provided systems engineering and training simulations for the military and other government agencies.

The couple said they can run “15 to 20 drivers” through the classes and simulators per day. There is a $3,000 setup fee that covers the first 15 drivers. More information about booking is available on the website paducahtransit.com.

“We’re trying to help make the world a safer place, one driver at a time,” he said. “Most people can’t be convinced that they’ve got bad habits. I don’t care how many drivers you got, over half of them are going to come in and say, ‘Oh I’ve been driving 25 or 30 years, I don’t need to take this class’ until you put them on that simulator. … Even the trained professionals need a rude awakening every once in a while.”